Data gives you real, concrete knowledge and insights into your business’s performance. To make any decisions about your business, you need to have the right facts and data to support and guide you. The question, then, is how to get the right data about your business and ask the right questions from it. That will enable you to use the data effectively in leading your organization.
The first step towards using data properly is to collect the data. This is where any tracking software, such as a CRM or project management or financial software, comes in very useful. Your data is only as good as the information being fed into it, so implementing a system that your entire company uses is a very important part of the process of getting good data.
If you don’t already have the right systems in place, here’s a list of the top items you should be tracking:
- Time: Time is the driving force behind everything in your business. Everything takes time. You pay people – or yourself – for your time. In order to determine profitability, you need to know what your costs are, which means you need to know where you and your employees’ time is being spent. If you aren’t already keeping track of everyone’s time, check if your project management system has the ability to integrate timekeeping, or turn to a simple app to keep track of your time for you. Some common apps are Toggl, Clockify and Tsheet
- Profitability: Money makes everything work. That’s why your business runs – you provide a product or service to earn money and you use money to pay for the expenses needed to provide those services. Knowing how much you earn – and how much you spend – on each client, customer, service or product gives you insight and knowledge to make decisions that will make you more profitable. Working with a bookkeeper, or using a basic invoicing software like QuickBooks or Xero, will give you the insight you need into your financials.
- Projects, Tasks and Milestones: Knowing your internal milestones and whether your team is meeting them keeps you on top of your production and meeting deadlines. The important things to track are specific tasks that everything else hinges on, and a global overview of your complete project list. Often, people use Gantt charts to project their timeline and determine if it’s being met. There’s no one answer about how you should be keeping track of your specific tasks – each company is so unique in how it works. Some companies do well with an internal spreadsheet or Google Sheets. Some thrive on Asana, Teamwork or Basecamp
. There are many more industry-specific project management apps – taking the time to determine what steps in your process you need to track, and finding a solution to meet that need will give you a lot of control over your data.
- Sales: You and your team spend valuable time creating relationships. But what happens to those relationships? Do you have a place to collect all the data and nurture those relationships? How long does it take to create a sale, and how does one do so most effectively? What does the profile of an average client look like? With the information collected in one place, you can answer these questions, and make sure that your sales efforts are more effective. If you don’t already have insight into your network, try collecting all the information in a CRM. Some common ones are HubSpot, Zoho, Agile, and Salesforce.
The next step is to analyze the data. Ask specific questions based on the information you need. Some examples might be:
- Which clients are highest value for me?
- What are my expenses for a specific project?
- What does my profitability/work volume look like now in comparison to last year?
- How are we doing on deliverables? Are we behind or ahead of schedule?
- What opportunities do I have in the pipeline?
Finally, when you have the results you need and can answer your questions, you can make smart and effective decisions to guide your business’s growth.
I’m always happy to help people figure out what kinds of questions they should be asking – click here to set up a free call with me to find out what information you need to help your business grow.